2015 was special — no, really

We’ve talked at length about just how talented the 2015 iteration of the Hillsboro Hops was. Arizona’s first six selections of the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft (Dansby Swanson, Alex Young, Taylor Clarke, Breckin Williams, Ryan Burr, and Tyler Mark) played for Hillsboro during the 2015 season. It is exceedingly rare for a major league franchise to entrust any of their minor league affiliates with such a talented core, especially to begin their careers. But just how rare is it? Let’s go back a few years and check it out.


The 2014 Northwest League Champion Hops were no slouches themselves. The Diamondbacks selected Touki Toussaint with their first round pick, but he never appeared for the franchise and was eventually traded to Atlanta. However, Cody Reed was their second rounder and spent all of 2015 with Hillsboro. None of the next three selections (Marcus Wilson, Isan Diaz, and Matt Railey) have logged time with the Hops, but we may still see them yet. Wilson, Diaz and Railey all spent 2015 with the Pioneer League Champion Missoula Osprey, and Hillsboro may be the next stop on their developmental track.

Hillsboro Hops vs Spokane Indians

Cody Reed was Arizona’s second round selection in 2014.


The inaugural season for the Hops was met with great talent on the field. Three of Arizona’s first four selections of the draft (Braden Shipley, Aaron Blair, and Daniel Palka) played for Hillsboro. Both Shipley and Blair are very close to earning major league assignments, and Palka has been playing in the Arizona Fall League this summer as a highly regarded offensive prospect. Palka was traded to Minnesota just last week.

Of the next three selections (Matt McPhearson, Jamie Westbrook, and Colin Bray), none have yet appeared for Hillsboro. McPhearson figures to be the only possible future Hop, as Westbrook just completed a very strong season at Advanced-A Visalia and Bray had a terrific year at Long-A Kane County.


2012 was the last season the franchise spent as the Yakima Bears in Washington. Just two of the first eight players logged time for the short-season franchise: first-round selection Stryker Trahan, and fifth-rounder Ronnie Freeman. Trahan himself never even appeared for Yakima, but did play for Hillsboro in ’14 and ’15.

Hillsboro Hops vs Spokane Indians

Stryker Trahan was a first round pick in 2012, but didn’t appear in short-season until 2014 with Hillsboro.


2011 may be the most striking contrast to the 2015 squad. Of the first 12 players the Diamondbacks selected that season, just one appeared for the franchise. That would be Evan Marshall, the fourth round selection who has logged time in the major leagues. Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley were the two prizes of the draft class, and neither appeared for the short-season franchise.


Yakima received four of the Diamondbacks’ first ten selections. Fifth-rounder Cody Wheeler, sixth-rounder Blake Perry, ninth-rounder (and now big leaguer) Zach Walters, and tenth rounder Kawika Emsley-Pai.


2009’s draft was perhaps Arizona’s greatest ever. They selected All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth round, who tragically never played for the franchise, and selected All-Star centerfielder A.J. Pollock in the first round, who unfortunately also missed Yakima. Also that season, current Diamondbacks second baseman Chris Owings was selected in the compensation round following the first round. The only player of the first nine selected that year to log time in Yakima was Matt Davidson.

Hillsboro Hops vs Boise Hawks

Aaron Blair was a compensation round pick for Arizona in 2013 and started his career with Hillsboro. He’ll be on a big league mound very soon.

All it takes to see how lucky we were in 2015 is to look back in time a few years. Astonishingly, the first six selections of the draft appeared for the Hillsboro Hops, which is indicative of the trust the franchise has earned from the Diamondbacks. The big-league team believes their players will be developed by a terrific staff and play championship baseball in front of passionate fans. In turn, they continually send fantastic talent to Washington County.

Very soon the Hops will celebrate their first big leaguer. After that, the flood gates will open, and former Hops will make themselves quite at home in Major League Baseball.


Hillsboro Hops Announce Third Annual Banquet

The two-time defending Northwest League Champion Hillsboro Hops will hold their Third Annual Hillsboro Hops Fund Banquet on Saturday, January 30th at Northwest Events and Environments in Hillsboro. Doors will open at 5:30 PM. Individual tickets and sponsorship opportunities are on sale now. E-mail Preston Toulon at prestont@hillsborohops.com, or call the Hops front office at (503) 640-0887 for additional information.2016 Hops Fund Banquet Save the Date

The Hops Fund was started by majority owners Mike and Laura McMurray and aims to re-instill a love of baseball and softball among the boys and girls of Washington County. The popularity of baseball and softball wanes as boys and girls get older and the games get more expensive. This fund was started to lessen the financial burdens on youth who love the game and want to continue pursuing their passions.

The Hops are presently engaged in a long-term project to refurbish and install a year-round playing surface at Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro. In the meantime, the club will also be taking on short-term initiatives to enrich the lives of local boys and girls.

The banquet will open with a cocktail hour and silent auction. There are some truly special, experiential items up for grabs that are sure to provide wonderful memories for you and yours. Thank you to all who have already donated items, and if you have interest in contributing an item to the silent auction, please contact Amy Stone at amys@hillsborohops.com. Dinner will be served at 7 PM.

This year’s banquet guests will be released in the next few weeks. Last year we were fortunate enough to have Luis Gonzalez and J.J. Putz fly up from Phoenix for the event as representatives of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and this year’s guests will be again terrific.

We would love to have any and all out to join us on January 30th for a night of fun and philanthropy. Come out and join your fellow Hops fans and get excited for the baseball season. If you’re interested in attending the Third Annual Hops Fund Banquet, please give us a call at (503) 640-0887 or click this link:http://ow.ly/UzHE3.

We’re all baseball lovers here in the Hillsboro front office, and we care deeply about the health of our game. This fund and this banquet is a small part of keeping baseball and softball alive and well in the Pacific Northwest. Neither baseball nor softball is cheap, and with your help, we remain resolute in our pursuit to raise funds to support the youth in our local communities.

Hope to see you all in January.

Hillsboro Hops Awards Wrap-Up

After several weeks of voting, the results are in and the champions have been crowned in the 2015 Hillsboro Hops Awards. Several were contentious and went down to the wire, but the winners have emerged. Many categories were up for grabs, including Top Play, Best Performance, Best Picture, Reliever of the Year, Starting Pitcher of the Year, Offensive Most Valuable Player, and Best Game.

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 10: The Hillsboro Hops vs Tri-City Dust Devils Volcanoes in game 1 of the NWL Championship at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Top Play – “The Tag”

Dansby Swanson’s leaping catch and tag of Mitch Morales in Game 1 of the Northwest League Championship Series against the Tri-City Dust Devils was voted the Best Play of 2015. This was a close category, as Swanson’s tag narrowly defeated Alexis Olmeda’s walk-off slide when the catcher ran through Shelley Duncan’s stop sign.

Best Performance – Carlos K’s 12

Carlos Hernandez unleashing one of his trademark changeups. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)Carlos Hernandez eked out a victory in the Best Performance category for his start in Game 2 of the Northwest League South Divisional Series. With the Hops trailing the series 1-0, Hernandez came out and dominated. He threw 6.1 shutout innings and struck out 12, tying the Hops’ record for strikeouts in a game. He barely defeated Trevor Mitsui, who threw his hat into the ring by knocking six home runs in five games.

Best Picture – Madi and G

madi and GGerard Hernandez and Madison Wombacher were the runaway winners in this category. The spontaneous moment captured during the NWL Championship celebration showed the wonderful outpouring of emotion after the title was clinched. The runner-up in this category was Dansby Swanson’s reaction following his famous tag.

Reliever of the Year – Brody GreerHILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 9: The Hillsboro Hops vs Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Hillsboro, OR. (Molly J Smith/Hillsboro Hops)

Brody Greer earned the distinction of 2015 Reliever of the Year by a comfortable margin over Taylor Clarke and Cameron Gann. All three pitchers were more than deserving of the honor, but it was Greer who walked away with the hardware following a sterling 2015 campaign.

Starter of the Year – Carlos Hernandez

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 8: The Hillsboro Hops vs Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in game 2 of the first round of the NWL Playoffs at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

In what was the craziest vote of the award season, Carlos Hernandez received just one more vote than southpaw Cody Reed to earn the honor of Hillsboro’s top starting pitcher. Both pitchers were the beneficiaries of some home cooking as folks in Santo Domingo and Ardmore, Alabama battled to support their boys. By the slimmest of margins, Carlos held off Cody.

Offensive MVP – Zach Nehrir

HILLSBORO, OR - JULY 3: The Hillsboro Hops vs Eugene Emeralds play at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Kevin N. Hume/Hillsboro Hops)  HILLSBORO, OR - JULY 3: The Hillsboro Hops vs Eugene Emeralds play at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Kevin N. Hume/Hillsboro Hops)Zach Nehrir was the clear victor in the race for Hillsboro’s offensive most valuable player, defeating Dansby Swanson by a comfortable margin. Nehrir was the victim of a wrist injury that prevented him from putting this category further out of reach. Trevor Mitsui, fresh off a season of setting a franchise record for home runs and runs batted in, rounded out the podium.

Game of the Year – Swanson sends Hops to NWL Championship Series

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 9: The Hillsboro Hops vs Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Hillsboro, OR. (Molly J Smith/Hillsboro Hops)

Dansby Swanson’s walk-off double to end the NWL South Divisional Series against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes took the honor of Game of the Year in 2015. And how could it not? It was an elimination game with both teams fighting to save their seasons, and it featured big time prospects in Salem-Keizer’s Chris Shaw and Ronnie Jebavy, along with the Diamondbacks’ first four selections from the 2015 draft in Swanson, Alex Young, Taylor Clarke, and Breckin Williams.

To all of our readers: thank you for taking the time to read and vote on this year’s awards. We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we enjoy putting them together. Congratulations to all of our nominees on a phenomenal championship season. We will forever be #AllHoppedUp!

Vote! 2015 Top Play

The next category up for grabs in our 2015 postseason Hillsboro Hops Awards will be “Top Play.” This was a very difficult award to trim down to just four finalists, and by all means, if you believe a different play should also be included in the discussion, please feel free to chime in! We’ve added videos of all of the selections below, and we’ll add some information to provide some context for the plays.

For the first time ever here in Hillsboro, all of our home games streamed live on MiLB TV, so we were able to capture our players making these spectacular plays. The Hops were the only team in the Northwest League to feature live streaming, and it allowed these plays to live forever!

The nominees…

My, Ozuna, My! Fernery’s walk-off homer

In a mid-July match-up between the teams with the best records in the Northwest League, the Everett AquaSox and Hillsboro Hops played a doozy.

Trailing most of the game, the Hops scratched out two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the contest. Each team’s bullpen settled in for a while, and then in the bottom of the 12th, Fernery Ozuna untied it.

With a vicious, unapologetic swing, the Hops’ second baseman crushed Matt Clancy’s offering for a no-doubt, walk-off home run and unleashed a bat flip even Jose Bautista would call gratuitous. Clancy would post a 1.19 ERA for the season, and the homer Ozuna hit was the only one he yielded all season.

Olmeda ignores the stop sign

The Hillsboro Hops were seeking a three-game sweep of the visiting Boise Hawks, and the teams went to the bottom of the ninth inning on August 8th locked in a 1-1 tie.

Hops catcher Alexis Olmeda got the offense going with a lead-off single and moved to second on a one-out single from Trevor Mitsui. With two on and one gone, Gerard Hernandez was the batter for the Hops with the opportunity to win the game. He hit a bounding ball to Boise second baseman Luis Castro. It would have been a tough double-play but it was a surefire out at first at the very least.

But then it wasn’t an out at all. Castro booted it, and Olmeda, sensing an opportunity to score, ignored Shelley Duncan’s very clear instructions to stop at third. The catcher sprinted home and got under the tag of Ryan Casteel to score the game’s winning run and avoid the wrath of an angry Duncan.

Robertson goes over the railing

In the final series of the season between the Hops and Eugene Emeralds, the visiting team was fighting for a playoff spot. They would come to Hillsboro in the driver’s seat to clinch the second spot of the NWL South Division, needing just one win and one loss by Salem-Keizer.

They couldn’t manage a win as Hillsboro swept their division rivals out of town. The defense on display by the Hops all series was phenomenal, and Nate Robertson’s play in the series opener set the tone.

Eugene’s Tyler Alamo lifted one into foul territory down the third base line, sure to find the waiting hands of a fan in the seats. Robertson ranged over, got his bearings, and seemed to balance half of his body weight on the railing just in time for the ball to fall in his glove. It was a tremendous play, and ultimately a harbinger of the defense to come in the remaining games of the series.

“The Tag”

I’m all out of superlatives on this one.

It’s Game 1 of the Northwest League Championship Series between the Hops and Tri-City Dust Devils. Ariel Hernandez is on for the save in the top of the ninth inning, holding a 2-1 lead. And he’s grinding.

He walks the lead-off batter to put the tying run at first base. Tri-City puts in Mitch Morales to pinch-run and he takes off — trying to steal second base.

Hernandez’s offering was low, but Hops catcher Alexis Olmeda made an adjustment on it and fired to second base hoping to nab Morales and quell a brewing threat. Out of his hand, it looked like the throw sailed.

The target was Hops’ shortstop Dansby Swanson, and Olmeda’s throw gave him a chance to display the athleticism the Diamondbacks coveted when they selected him with the first overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Swanson leapt and speared the throw, and contorted his body to place the tag on Morales before he touched second. Just like that, it went from runner on second or third base with no outs, to bases empty with one out.

There are so many good choices, Hops fans. Vote below for your favorite. If we left your top play off, tell us about it!

Vote! 2015 Best Performance

Last year’s season brought with it many impressive individual displays. On the way to a championship, moments of individual success contribute to the greater team success. Quite a few Hops enjoyed some special moments during the 2015 campaign, and in the next installment in our Hillsboro Hops Season Awards, we’ll see who had the best individual performance of the season.

Here are the nominees.

Trevor Mitsui blasts six homers in five games

The big Hops first baseman struggled a bit during the first half of the 2015 season. Coming off of a strong 2014 with Pioneer-League Missoula in which he clubbed 12 homers, the power wasn’t translating. Not that Mitsui wasn’t hitting the ball hard — he was — but the balls that were going out in Missoula seemed to die on the warning track in Hillsboro.

Trevor Mitsui posted a week that may never be replicated. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Trevor Mitsui posted a week that may never be replicated. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Mitsui was frustrated, and finally he consulted with hitting coach Javier Colina and consultant Ben Petrick. They tweaked a few things and suddenly everything clicked. What ensued will surely be remembered in Hops Nation.

Over a span of 32 games from July 7 – August 14, Mitsui logged 135 plate appearances and did not hit a single home run. Then, from August 15 – August 19, he hit a home run in five consecutive games. In the fifth and final game of the streak, he homered twice, lifting his total to six home runs in a five game period. All six of the long balls came in a span of 25 plate appearances. His slugging percentage on August 14 was .324. His slugging percentage on August 19 was .424, a jump of exactly 100 points in a confounding 5 days.

The consecutive home run streak will probably be safe for a few years.

Swanson ties the hits record

We in Hillsboro were lucky enough to witness the opening salvo of the career of Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick of 2015’s MLB Draft. The former Vanderbilt Commordore did not disappoint.

Recovering from a scary hit by pitch to the face in extended spring training, and then a long layoff between competitive baseball games, it took a few weeks for Swanson to get his legs under him.

HILLSBORO, OR - AUGUST 12: The Hillsboro Hops vs Vancouver Canadians at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)  HILLSBORO, OR - AUGUST 12: The Hillsboro Hops vs Vancouver Canadians at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Dansby Swanson found his groove. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

When he did, the Northwest League was in trouble.

The ascension of Swanson’s batting average hit its peak on September 3rd, on the road in Boise. He recorded hits in his first 5 at-bats of the game with four singles and a triple, tying Steve Nyisztor’s franchise record for hits in a game set in 2014. He had a chance at a sixth hit in the ninth inning, but struck out. In one game, his batting average jumped from .275 to .320.

Boise was ready for Swanson to skip town. The five hits came in the series finale, but in the two games prior, he also recorded multi-hit games. For the series, Swanson went 9×15, and his average went from .250 to .320. I guess he liked Idaho.

Carlos K’s 12

Every time Carlos Hernandez went out to pitch in 2015, a record was in danger of falling. He tied the franchise record for strikeouts in a season with 93, and set a new Hops record for ERA at 2.32.

His team needed him desperately in Game 2 of the South Divisional Series against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. After Hillsboro dropped Game 1 on the road in Keizer, the Hops were on the ropes. A loss would end their season, and the Bob

Carlos Hernandez unleashing one of his trademark changeups. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Carlos Hernandez unleashing one of his trademark changeups. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Freitas Trophy would be relinquished.

The staff ace and NWL Pitcher of the Year would not have any of that. He responded with 6.1 innings of shutout baseball, allowing only 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 12. The twelve punchouts tied a single-game franchise record, set by Anderson Placido in 2014.

Hernandez was backed by a fantastic offensive showcase as well. Nate Robertson had two hits, including a two-run homer, and Grant Heyman had a three-hit day on the way to an 8-0 Hillsboro romp.

Hillsboro would go on to win the series, and then the NWL Championship after another virtuosic Hernandez performance in Tri-City.

All three of the performances were critical and played massive roles in Hillsboro’s success — but there can be only one winner! Vote below.

Vote! 2015 Photo of the Year

Considering that pictures speak a thousand words themselves, I’ll spare you the introduction. In our next installment of the 2015 Hillsboro Hops Awards, we’ll take a look at some of the most unforgettable images of the championship season.

  1. Dansby touches the sky

It was Game 1 of the Northwest League Championship Series against the Tri-City Dust Devils. The Hops were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth inning. Ariel Hernandez was on the mound, looking to record the final three outs and send the team to Tri-City one win away from a title.

He walked the first batter of the inning and the Dust Devils inserted Mitch Morales to pinch run. He tried to swipe second and get in scoring position. Hops backstop Alexis Olmeda received Hernandez’s offering and fired to second. The ball sailed, destined for centerfield.

But fear not. Hops shortstop Dansby Swanson leapt higher than what seemed possible, speared the throw, and brought it back down on the hip of Morales before his foot hit second base. An immense amount of tension was released at Ron Tonkin Field, captured vividly below by Craig Mitchelldyer. It was a remarkable play that changed the course of the game — and actually — the season.

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 10: The Hillsboro Hops vs Tri-City Dust Devils Volcanoes in game 1 of the NWL Championship at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

In what may have been the play of the year, Dansby Swanson recorded a crucial out in the top of the ninth inning in a Game 1 victory over the TC Dust Devils in the NWL Championship Series. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

2. Carlos doffs his cap

With the Northwest League Championship Series tied at one game apiece, Carlos Hernandez, the 2015 NWL Pitcher of the Year, was called upon in the final game of the series.

The game was at Gesa Stadium in Pasco, Washington, about four hours away from Hillsboro, but it didn’t stop the Hops faithful from showing up in spades and making their voices heard.

From the first inning, Hernandez was in a zone, repeatedly sending the Hops fans in enemy territory into a frenzy. When Shelley Duncan removed him from the game with the Hops sporting a comfortable lead, Hernandez turned and acknowledged his supporters, a wonderful moment filled with mutual admiration.

Craig Mitchelldyer captured it below.

With a NWL Championship nearly in tow, Carlos Hernandez acknowledged the Hops faithful who made the trip to Pasco. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

With a NWL Championship nearly in tow, Carlos Hernandez acknowledged the Hops faithful who made the trip to Pasco. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

3. Madi and G

After Carlos Hernandez pitched the Hops to the 2015 title, the celebration was on in Pasco. Hops staffers scoured the field to celebrate with players, all of whom turned to acknowledge the wonderful Hops crowd who made the journey to support the team.

Somewhere in the fracas, Hops outfielder Gerard Hernandez shared a spontaneous moment with Madison Wombacher, the daughter of K.L. and Lauren. The picture is sure to live in perpetuity in the Wombacher household.

It also serves as a reminder of the high character of all of our players this year. They endeared themselves to the local community with more than just their fantastic play.

Lauren Wombacher took the shot.

madi and G

One for the Wombacher family scrapbook.

4. Olmeda takes a moment

In the decisive Game 3 of the NWL South Divisional Series, the Hillsboro Hops survived one of the most rough-and-tumble games in recent memory. They battled back from multiple deficits with their season on the line to stave off elimination and send the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes home.

After Dansby Swanson laced a thunderous walk-off hit, the team celebrated in centerfield. Catcher Alexis Olmeda stole away for a moment for some private reflection, and the image was expertly captured by Molly Smith.

All of the elements combine for a breathtaking photo. The explosion of the fireworks, the remnants of the centerfield celebration, and the thankful face of a catcher who didn’t have to go catch his 14th inning.

If ever there was a game where you needed some time to yourself afterwards, this would be the one. (Molly J. Smith/Hillsboro Hops)

If ever there was a game where you needed some time to yourself afterwards, this would be the one. (Molly J. Smith/Hillsboro Hops)

There are so many incredible moments that occur over the course of a baseball season. Pictures like the ones above are reminders of why this game is so special, and why the wait is always worth it.

Vote below for your favorite photo.

Vote! 2015 Reliever of the Year

In the fourth installment of our 2015 Hillsboro Hops Season Awards, the recipient of the Reliever of the Year Award will be determined. In a year characterized by both starting pitching (chronicled last week) and dominant bullpen work, there are several worthy candidates up for the honor.

The nominees please…

Taylor Clarke, RHP

2015 Regular Season Stats: 0-0, 0.00, 21 IP, 8 H, 4 BB, 27 K, .114 batting average against, 3/3 in save opportunities

The exploits of Taylor Clarke have been well-documented on this site, but they’re always fun to revisit. In case you didn’t see the original post, the man didn’t allow a single run all season. He didn’t even allow an unearned run, which can happen in the low minors as defenders work to iron out their kinks.

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 4: The Hillsboro Hops vs Eugene Emeralds at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Molly J Smith/Hillsboro Hops)

Taylor Clarke was pretty good in 2015.

Unfortunately, Clarke wasn’t able to pitch nearly as much as he probably would have liked. A 2015 3rd round draft pick, he came off of a busy collegiate season at the College of Charleston. Combining his workload with an earlier elbow injury in 2013, the Diamondbacks exercised caution with him in 2015. Next year, the reins will be taken off, and he’ll be able to display his talents as a starting pitcher.

But in the meantime, he’s a dominant reliever. In the regular season alone, he allowed just 8 hits, and all of them were singles. In the playoffs, he allowed two more singles, but still no runs. He was also the pitcher who put the final touches on Hillsboro’s victory in Game Three of the Northwest League Championship Series against the Tri-City Dust Devils.

Clarke was an absolute lock to put up a zero on the scoreboard every time he pitched. The only question was if anybody would even get on base before the final out of his outing was recorded.

Brody Greer, RHP

2015 Regular Season Stats: 1-1, 0.83, 32.2 IP, 14 H, 8 R, 3 ER, 14 BB, 51 K, .126 BAA, 5/6 save opportunities

As crazy as Clarke’s season was, Greer was thisclose to matching his dominance. He was electric. In just 32.2 innings in the regular season, he posted 51 strikeouts. He would record four more innings in the postseason without allowing a run, while piling up six more strikeouts.

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 9: The Hillsboro Hops vs Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Hillsboro, OR. (Molly J Smith/Hillsboro Hops)

Shelley Duncan could always turn to Brody Greer.

He was an incredibly important pitcher for Shelley Duncan to have, and because he wasn’t on an innings restriction, he found himself in tons of high-leverage situations with games in the balance. Nearly every time his number was called, he passed with flying colors.

Another crucial element to Greer: he could give you several innings when the situation called for it. After Cody Reed struggled against Boise on August 20th, Greer entered and gave the Hops three brilliant innings. He allowed one baserunner on a walk, but retired seven Hawks via strikeout. He gave Hillsboro a fighting chance.

Greer led the NWL in batting average against with a minuscule .126 mark. Clarke fell a few innings shy of qualifying statistically for the category. However, including postseason statistics, Greer actually managed to pass Clarke for the BAA lead (.121-.128!)

You couldn’t go wrong with Clarke or Greer. Or what about…

…Cameron Gann, RHP

2015 Regular Season Stats: 0-1, 2.76, 29.1 IP, 22 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 10 BB, 33 K, .206 BAA, 3/4 save opportunities

Cameron Gann’s regular season statistics may not quite stack up to the eye-popping numbers of Clarke or Greer, but his impact on the team was every bit as important.

Aside from posting stifling numbers on the mound, Gann was an emotional leader. Shelley Duncan credited Gann’s performance in Game Three of the South Divisional Series against Salem-Keizer as the key to Hillsboro’s comeback victory.

PASCO, WA - SEPTEMBER 13: The Hillsboro Hops vs Tri-City Dust Devils Volcanoes in game 3 of the NWL Championship at Gesa Stadium in Pasco, WA. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Cameron Gann became famous for his reactions — and his stuff.

He entered the game after Tyler Bolton couldn’t find his rhythm and went on to record 3.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts. His emotional reactions and intensity fired up both his teammates and the crowd and got the Hops back into a contest they’d eventually win in dramatic fashion.

But back to his numbers: Gann allowed 9 earned runs all season. On August 1, Gann was tagged with six earned runs against Tri-City in 0.1 innings of work. With this clear anomaly removed from his statistics, here is his 2015 line: 0-0, 0.93, 29 IP. He was absolutely, undeniably a shutdown option at the back end of the Hops’ bullpen.

Here are his 2015 statistics at Ron Tonkin Field just for fun: 0-0, 0.00, 16.2 IP, 7 H, 5 BB, 26 K, .123 BAA. If anyone tries to tell you Cameron Gann wasn’t dominant, just tell them they’re wrong.

You can’t go wrong, Hops Nation. But you can make your voice heard! Vote below for Hillsboro’s top reliever in 2015.

Vote! 2015 Starting Pitcher of the Year

The strength of the 2015 Hillsboro Hops was again pitching. For the season, the team posted a cumulative earned run average of 3.27, good enough to lead the Northwest League. But pitching has become a tradition in West Portland. The 2014 Hops also led the NWL in Team ERA with a mark of 3.64. Going back to the inaugural season of 2013, the Hops had the third-best Team ERA at 3.29, just 0.01 behind second place, and 0.06 behind first place. A hearty tip of the cap to pitching coach Doug Drabek, and the talented array of arms who have grown under his tutelage.

For the better part of the season, the 2015 Champion Hops boasted the top three starting pitchers in the league. The envelopes for 2015 Starting Pitcher of the Year please…

Carlos Hernandez, RHP

2015 Stats: 6-3, 2.32 ERA, 15 GS, 85.1 IP, 58 H, 24 R, 22 ER, 27 BB, 93 K, .193 batting average against

Several times since the end of the 2015 season last month, I’ve lost myself down a wormhole of Carlos Hernandez’s statistics. I open his page on MiLB and the next thing I know, an hour has gone by.

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 8: The Hillsboro Hops vs Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in game 2 of the first round of the NWL Playoffs at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Carlos Hernandez racked up the accolades for the Hops.

But can you blame me? I mean, look at the numbers. The Dominican native simply flummoxed his overmatched opponents all season long. And the league took notice. Hernandez was named the 2015 NWL Pitcher of the Year. He was a NWL All-Star. His 93 strikeouts blew away the previous Hops record for strikeouts in a season — by 33! His final ERA of 2.32 broke Ryan Doran’s franchise record of 2.56.

You look at the overall body of work in the regular season and it’s phenomenal. Would you believe that he was better across the board in the playoffs? He made two playoff starts — both in elimination games. With the Hops trailing Salem-Keizer in the South Divisional Series and needing a win to extend the season, Hernandez dropped 6.1 shutout innings with 12 strikeouts on them to lead the Hops to an 8-0 victory. Then, in the decisive championship game against Tri-City, he threw 5.2 innings of one-run ball, striking out seven to clinch a NWL Championship for his team.

His 2015 playoff numbers: 2-0, 0.75 ERA, 2 GS, 12 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 19 K

Last thing. Hernandez at Ron Tonkin Field in 2015: 2-1, 1.22 ERA, 6 GS, 37 IP, 20 H, 5 ER, 11 BB, 48 K, .157 BAA

Guess he liked pitching for you guys.

Cody Reed, LHP

2015 Stats: 5-4, 3.27 ERA, 14 GS, 63.1 IP, 51 H, 29 R, 23 ER, 21 BB, 72 K, .219 BAA

Cody Reed turned 19 years old on June 7. That’s right, a week before the season started, he turned 19. And then he dominated the Northwest League.

HILLSBORO, OR - JULY 11: The Hillsboro Hops vs Spokane Indians at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Cody Reed pitched beyond his years in the Northwest League.

He roared out of the gates. Through his first seven starts, Reed was 4-1 with a 1.37 ERA. He struck out 46 batters in his first 39.1 innings. In a start July 17 on the road against Eugene, he retired the first twenty batters he faced before the Emeralds’ Ian Happ knocked a double. When Reed retired the final hitter of the seventh inning, he walked to second base to shake hands with Happ and congratulate him on breaking up his perfect game. It was a classy gesture, and one not exactly befitting a 19-year-old.

He was named to the 2015 NWL All-Star Game on the strength of his electric first half. After the 2015 season, Baseball America rated Reed as the ninth-best prospect across the entire Northwest League.

Reed was selected by the Diamondbacks in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Ardmore High school in Alabama. His performance in the NWL at the age of 19 was nothing short of remarkable. Expect big things from Reed wherever he ends up in 2016.

Jared Miller, LHP

2015 Stats: 7-2, 1.81 ERA, 9 GS, 59.2 IP, 42 H, 18 R, 12 ER, 12 BB, 57 K, .194 BAA

We weren’t lucky enough to have Jared Miller for the entire 2015 season, but the record book was only a light suggestion during his time with the Hops this season.

He won 7 games in just over half of a season, breaking the Hops’ franchise record of 6. It’s worth wondering how many he would have won had he not earned a mid-season promotion to the Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League.

HILLSBORO, OR - JULY 21: The Hillsboro Hops vs Everett Aquasox play at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Kevin N. Hume/Hillsboro Hops)

Jared Miller was dominant in just over half of a season in Hillsboro.

Miller went 6-0 with a 0.66 ERA in his first six starts with the Hops in 2015. He threw a complete-game four-hitter against Spokane on July 10 in front of his visiting family. In his next start, he threw six shutout innings on the road against Eugene, striking out a career-best 11.

Miller was named to start the All-Star Game for the Northwest League against the Pioneer League in Spokane, Washington.

The big left-hander fell just shy of throwing enough innings to qualify for major Hops’ pitching categories. However, likely records that would have fallen had he not been so good to earn a promotion include wins, ERA, innings pitched, and strikeouts.

All three Hillsboro hurlers were rocks for the Hops during the season, and certainly major factors in the Hops clinching their second title in as many years. They were all invaluable and crucial to the success of the team. It will be fun to watch them all rise through the Diamondbacks’ ranks.

Vote below for the 2015 Starting Pitcher of the Year!

Vote! 2015 Offensive MVP

The 2015 Hillsboro Hops were famous for their pitching, but the offense was no slouch itself. The year was marked by several strong offensive performances as new team records were set left and right. The team was bitten by the injury bug, but several players combined to fill voids left by season-ending injuries to Dane McFarland, Fernery Ozuna, and Zach Hoffpauir.

Here are the nominees for the Top Offensive Player for the 2015 Northwest League Champion Hillsboro Hops:

Zach Nehrir, CF

2015 Stats: 15 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 21 RBI, .297avg/.363obp/.418slg/.781ops, 40 G

HILLSBORO, OR - JULY 3: The Hillsboro Hops vs Eugene Emeralds play at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Kevin N. Hume/Hillsboro Hops) HILLSBORO, OR - JULY 3: The Hillsboro Hops vs Eugene Emeralds play at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Kevin N. Hume/Hillsboro Hops)

Zach Nehrir was the Hops’ spark plug all season long.

Nehrir is the first nominee for 2015’s Top Offensive Player, and unfortunately, he too fell victim to injury and missed about 30 games. However, despite missing all that time with a wrist injury, Nehrir was an igniter at the top of the order. He knocked 15 doubles in 40 games, just one behind the franchise record of 16 currently shared by Jordan Parr in 2014 and Yogey Perez-Ramos in 2013. It’s pretty safe to say that the record would have fallen had Nehrir managed to stay healthy.

Aside from his prowess at the plate, Nehrir showed great baserunning ability as well. He nabbed 11 bags while being caught just twice. He returned to Hillsboro at the beginning of September and resumed his table-setting ways in time to help lead the Hops to their second title in as many years.

Dansby Swanson, SS

2015 Stats: 7 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, .289avg/.394obp/.482slg/.876ops, 22 G

Though Swanson only appeared in 22 regular season games for Hillsboro, his offensive impact was extraordinary. Assigned to the team on August 12, the shortstop stepped into the 2-hole in the batting order and became an immediate force. His OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) led the team by a wide margin, and extrapolated over a full-season, his offensive tallies would have led the team in most offensive categories.

HILLSBORO, OR - AUGUST 20: The Hillsboro Hops vs Boise Hawks at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Swanson’s time in Hillsboro was short, but strong.

His strongest game of the season came on the road in Boise on September 3rd, when we went 5-6. His batting average jumped from .275 to .320 after the game, which seems good. It was just the second 5-hit game in team history after Steve Nyisztor accomplished the feat in 2014. Swanson had a chance at a sixth hit but struck out in the top of the 9th inning.

Swanson also provided the most dramatic hit of the season when he launched a long fly ball over Salem-Keizer’s centerfielder in the bottom of the 13th inning of a decisive Game 3 to send the Hops to the 2015 NWL Championship Series.

Trevor Mitsui, 1B/DH

2015 Stats: 14 2B, 10 HR, 42 RBI, .237avg/.320obp/.409slg/.728ops, 69 G

Mitsui was a fixture in Shelley Duncan’s line-up all season long, occupying the clean-up spot for most of the campaign. Though he got off to a slow start, Mitsui provided many highlight moments throughout the year.

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 8: The Hillsboro Hops vs Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in game 2 of the first round of the NWL Playoffs at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Craig Mitchelldyer/Hillsboro Hops)

Mitsui rewrote most of Hillsboro’s offensive record book.

His 10 home runs established a new Hillsboro Hops record, and his 42 RBI exceeded Grant Heyman’s previous franchise record of 37 set in 2014. He had a historic run from 8/15-8/19 in which he homered in five consecutive games. He had six in the span after ripping two home runs on 8/19 on the road in Salem-Keizer.

His 24 extra-base hits (14 doubles, 10 home runs) also set a new franchise record, eclipsing Zach Esquerra’s 21 in 2013.

Mistui is a constant threat to leave the ballpark in every at-bat, and will continue to be an offensive factor wherever his career takes him next year.

Luis Veras, OF

2015 Stats: 14 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 24 RBI, .276avg/.300obp/.379slg/.679ops, 58 G

Veras was one of the steadier hitters in Hillsboro’s offense all-season long. His average dipped a little bit in the middle of the season, but he really cranked it up in the month of August, turning into an offensive presence the Hops sorely needed in the middle of the order.

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 9: The Hillsboro Hops vs Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Hillsboro, OR. (Molly J Smith/Hillsboro Hops)

Veras saved his best stuff for the stretch run.

In the month of August, Veras hit .312 and knocked 24 hits in just 20 games, including five doubles and a triple. Considering the team batting average in August was a meager .223, Veras’ hot August was exactly what the Hops needed.

Veras turned it up another notch in the month of September, notching a .444 batting average in an admittedly small sample size of 5 games. However, he went 8-18 as the Hops closed in on and eventually clinched the second-half title. He went on to record 7 hits in 6 postseason games and plated 6 runs in that span. Suffice it to say, Veras was the Hops’ strongest hitter down the stretch and into the postseason.

So there you have it, Hops fans. There were lots of strong offensive performances, but these were the highest recommendations from our front office. Who is the 2015 Offensive MVP for Hillsboro? Vote below!

Vote! 2015 Game of the Year

Postseason baseball awards are in full swing, with the big league baseball ranks embroiled in lively debates on Cy Young Awards and Rookies of the Year. (Give me Arrieta for NL Cy Young and Lindor over Correa for AL ROY.) It got us thinking about our own award banquet here in the Hillsboro front office.

We had such a special year with such special moments and such special players. So, over the course of the next several weeks, we’ll nominate specific players and events from our magical 2015 run, and allow you, the fans, the opportunity to vote on your favorite moments from another incredible year in Hopland.

The first category up for grabs: Game of the Year

  1. Galli Gets A Win: Hops 10, Canadians 9 (14) 8/15/15

It was a rousing start for the home team as the Hops sprinted out of the gates to an 8-0 lead through five innings over the visiting Vancouver Canadians. Dansby Swanson provided his first career professional hit with a triple, and Trevor Mitsui launched a home run, as he was wont to do. Cody Reed was dominant through five innings, and given the stalwart nature of Hillsboro’s bullpen, the lead was plenty.

Cribbs Pitching

The Canadians thought they had seen all of Shelley Duncan’s pitchers. That’s when Galli Cribbs, Jr. trotted out.

Until it wasn’t. Vancouver surged back and stole a 9-8 lead. Hillsboro would rally to tie it in the 9th inning. The game pressed on deep into the night and by the time the 14th inning rolled around, Hops skipper Shelley Duncan was out of pitchers.

Enter Galli Cribbs, Jr. The ultra-utility man who logged time at first base, second base, shortstop, third base, center field, and now pitcher, entered the game. He fired a scoreless inning, allowing a lone hit and even recording a strikeout. All the Hops had to do was plate a run in the bottom of the 14th and Cribbs would be the winner.

Sure enough, Gerard Hernandez fired a single up the middle to score Trevor Mitsui, and Galli Cribbs, Jr. was your winning pitcher. Just another night at Ron Tonkin Field.

2. Miller Goes the Distance: Hops 5, Indians 1 7/10/15

Jared Miller was a member of the 2014 Northwest League Champion Hillsboro Hops and began 2015 up with the Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League. He started strongly enough there, but was reassigned to Hillsboro to “get right” when he encountered some turbulence for the Cougars.

HILLSBORO, OR - JULY 21: The Hillsboro Hops vs Everett Aquasox play at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, OR. (Kevin N. Hume/Hillsboro Hops)

Jared Miller was an absolute force in the Hillsboro rotation. He finished the season with the Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League.

Well, he got right. Pitching with his family in attendance against the Spokane Indians, Miller fired the first complete game of his career. He allowed only four hits, and the lone run the Indians tallied was unearned. He struck out eight and never let Spokane off the mat. It was his fifth consecutive outing recording a win, and his ERA dropped to 0.77 by the end of the complete game.

Somehow, it would get even better. Miller won his next start too, making him 6-0 in his first six starts since returning to Hillsboro. His ERA fell to 0.66 after his six shutout frames against Eugene on 7/16. He struck out 11.

After his start against Eugene, Jared would go on to make three more starts for Hillsboro before being promoted back to Kane County to finish the season. Along the way, he was named the starting pitcher for the Northwest League against the Pioneer League in the inaugural All-Star Game between the Short-Season leagues.

3. Swanson sends Hops to NWL Championship Series: Hops 6, Volcanoes 5 (13) 9/9/15

It’s hard to even write about this one. The Hops and Volcanoes had split the first two games of the NWL South Division Series. The winner of Game Three would advance to the championship series. So it was win or you’re playing golf in the morning.

The Hops had Pumpkin Ridge on their speed dial as they fell behind 3-0 through three innings, but the story wasn’t sent to production just yet. Hillsboro stormed back to take a 4-3 lead and handed the game off to their dominant bullpen to render the Volcanoes dormant.

HILLSBORO, OR - SEPTEMBER 9: The Hillsboro Hops vs Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Hillsboro, OR. (Molly J Smith/Hillsboro Hops)

Here’s to many more celebrations in Hops Nation.

They had done just that up until the 9th inning. With the Hops clinging to that 4-3 lead, Ronnie Jebavy of the Volcanoes ripped a home run to left on Alex Young’s first offering of the frame. Then, with two outs, Chris Shaw laced another solo homer, and suddenly the Hops had to scratch and claw to keep the season alive.

They did in the bottom of the 9th. They managed a single run to tie the game and send it to extras.

Hillsboro put Salem-Keizer on the ropes in the 13th inning. With the bases loaded and nobody out, the first overall selection of the 2015 MLB Draft, Dansby Swanson, had the opportunity to send the Hops to the championship series. He tagged a ball over the centerfielder’s head and the party was on. They’d go on to win the title 4 days later.

So what do you think Hops fans? What was your favorite game? Vote below! Do you have a different game you’d nominate? Tell us about it!


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